No online business really reaches truly high levels of success without email marketing. It may not be a part of your current marketing efforts, but, the truth is, if you aspire to turn your affiliate marketing site into a full-fledged Internet business, you need to start thinking about email marketing. Building a list

Email marketing is the most effective way to communicate with your readers, and it’s the primary way of building a list of prospects that you can engage in a more profitable way later on down the road.

As such, it’s a cornerstone of any modern Internet marketing plan. And the first step of email marketing? Building a list of recipients — often called prospects. After all, you’ve got a site, and you’ve got site traffic, so you’ve got what you need to start building this fundamental aspect of online marketing today.

Building your list
Email lists are really databases, containing email addresses your visitors have supplied voluntarily.

This is how those email addresses are typically gathered:

1.    Website sign-ups. Your site should be set up to have a sign-up form for visitors to enter their emails for inclusion in your newsletter or email lists. This should certainly be on your home page and contact pages, and, if you can pull it off with your design, most all other pages, too.

Give readers an incentive. In an unobtrusive way, offer them the ability to get additional, exclusive information from you by submitting their contact info.

2.    Email response sign-ups. When you have a list of prospects, a way to grow or specialize that list is to offer the inclusion onto better, more targeted lists. You do that via an email sent to the list you do have. In fact, every email you send should have the option for users to subscribe to better lists.

3.    Autoresponders. Autoresponders are a powerful tool to building up email lists. They’re easy to set up and to use, too. Get more details on autoresponders here.

Maintaining your list
Of course, list-building begins with getting your prospects to sign up. But once you have them on a list, your work is by no means over.

If you want your list to be profitable, and in a state of growth, it’s just as important to communicate with your prospects and work on managing and maintaining the prospects you do have.

Here’s what not to do:
1. Don’t communicate too often. Send messages only when you need to. Don’t overdo it — while an autoresponder message campaign is essential for gaining sign-ups, if you annoy your prospects, they’ll be very quick to unsubscribe.

2. Don’t sell your list. Every time you ask someone to sign up to your list, you also have to tell them you won’t be selling their email address to any one else.

Why do you need to do this? Most people — yourself most likely included — would never give away their personal contact info to someone suspicious. Junk email and spam are still big problems, and people are going to avoid any list that hints of those elements.

3. Don’t use free templates or autoresponders. Your email marketing efforts are only as good as your communications medium. If you’re trying to communicate to people with cheap-looking messages, people are going to know they’re cheap. And they’re likely going to ditch the list.

It might cost a little more time and effort to set up messages properly, or get a better design or template in place. Even if you don’t have that kind of time, you should definitely avoid the free autoresponder templates that can be found all throughout the web. These templates tend to wind up in spam boxes.

That means the work you’ve done creating the email is wasted, and the work you’ve done winning the prospect is also wasted. It’s also damaging to your site’s reputation and ability to win prospects when someone finds your message in his or her spam bin.

Take the time, then, to contract with a quality list management provider. AWeber is a great example of this. It’s not free, true, but services rarely are.

What’s next?
So, that’s what not to do. That’s only half of the equation, though. Next time, we’ll explore the more positive aspects of list-growing and email marketing.

In the meantime, let us know your thoughts and experience. Have you built an effective email list? Have you marketed to it yet, and if so, what have you learned?